I was comforted by the words of a Sensei (teacher) during a Zen retreat at the Dominican Retreat Centre in Tallaght, Dublin over the weekend. She invited us at the beginning of the retreat to ponder the “bursts” (or opportunities of ‘bursting’) in our lives. In Buddhism, we often hear about enlightenment and we are told that when a person becomes enlightened it is as if heaven and earth crumble before their eyes. There is a sudden burst of newness that can transform the person’s life for evermore.
But the Sensei was suggesting that we can experience many little moments of enlightenment too. I rejoiced at dinner, for example, when my perceived cold mince pie turned out to be crumbly hot! I was grateful when my sudden drop of blood pressure during meditation re-awakened me with what seemed like a mild electric boost. Even the potted ‘Christmas Cactus’ in the photo seemed to want to burst out in praise in the midst of winter. Continue reading
I wrote a reflection recently on how I live with others, which was essentially about navigating the many webs of relationships in my life for optimal mental health and well-being. Living with bipolar disorder means that I need to remain vigilant to the potentially severe changes and challenges of mood which are characteristic of the illness. However, I want to shift the focus to how others live with me for this blogpost. I include here a number of reflections from important people in my life and I respond to each while being mindful of their needs. I am sincerely grateful to them for agreeing to publish their comments which I hope will resonate with readers.
“There was only one time when you were different than usual over the past year. You were talking very quickly and loudly, and we were both concerned. But you were still able to express yourself. We checked in with you on that occasion and you were fine the next day. As far as your low mood is concerned, we don’t notice anything unusual about it.” Continue reading
I was intrigued to find out this week that the word desire may well derive from a sense of being cut off from the stars (sidus – star in Latin), from remote things that are simply not attainable. In my own experience, my deepest desires have certainly seemed remote at times and I have plunged into despair. Now, by looking at my concrete realities, I’m realising that what I really want is actually within my reach. I am learning that I need to place my feet firmly on the ground in order to wish, long, and yearn.
What the heart wants
Blogger Michele Campbell reminded me that my deepest desires were put deep within my heart so I wouldn’t lose them. What a wonderful thought and how grateful I feel when pondering it. Beautiful desires are actually accessible and ready to be found if I only look to my heart. Once again, I stop gazing at the stars and instead listen to what I really want in life. I want to promote the psycho-spiritual needs of the general public through blogging, journalism, and doing a masters in applied spirituality. I want to work towards the more universal good and make a contribution. Continue reading
The spiritual path is one of many twists and turns. Much of our journeys involve going through unknown territory and we learn to be okay with this. One characteristic that defines spiritual maturity is gratitude for the many gifts that we have been given in our ordinary realities and relationships. And this brings us to an important concept.
“Thankful in all things” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
To be thankful in all things, we really must begin with the basics – thankful for a tea and chat with a friend, for a unique sunset, and for a gentle breeze. I am thankful for my faith, interest in psychology and spirituality, my girlfriend, accommodation, and career. But I am well aware that I am far from being thankful in all things. In my low mood, for example, I find it hard to be thankful for anything in my life. It all just seems too much and there is a pull towards an overly-internalised world which stretches away from reality. I need to look elsewhere for inspiration. Continue reading
There is an energy throughout my body and I can feel it as the tips of my fingers from both hands join together. I can feel a strong pulse in this small region of my body. I am surprised how drum-like it is, and I separate my fingers for a moment because it is almost too strong, too much to handle. But I join them again. Essentially, I am connecting with the pump of my heart, a most powerful source of life within me.
Human energy is an amazing thing. Just this week, I wrote 11 pages of notes thinking about it: the energy we need for sports, for house chores, for couples coming together, for performing the most complicated of tasks at work, and so on. Our various spiritualities try to ‘pick up’ on these energies, to understand their dynamics, and to channel them in the right ways. For example, we respond to subtle forms of communication quite differently than direct forms; we may adjust our speeches and facial expressions; and seek harmony in that effort. We know that there are energies of light and darkness in the world, so we need training to share our gifts and talents and to reach our full potentials. Continue reading
“Men and women for others” – Pedro Arrupe SJ
I was educated by the Jesuits who taught me to be a man for others. At school, I reached out through charity work, welcoming the new student, and sacrificing myself on the running field. At university abroad, I cared for the Irish students, worked for the church, and helped friends to run better. Afterwards, I volunteered at an orphanage and a hospital, before becoming ill and returning to Ireland. When I got better, I worked with asylum seeking children and school children. However, my health continued to suffer and I slowly learned to take care of myself. Now, I manage to integrate this value through my commitment to this blog and maintaining a balanced mood for a balanced life. Continue reading
My late father comes to mind as I ponder fragility (from frangere ‘to break’). I imagine him looking at me and wanting me to live a life of complete love. He knows that I am fragile. I admitted this at his grave. I called out: “Dad, I have a problem and I need your help”. And this problem was a human one. The beauty of the moment was simply sharing this with my Dad. I felt exposed in a good way. I went home and my load became a little lighter. I haven’t been back to the grave because my sharing enabled me to carry him in my heart. He remains close and he knows the fragility of our family too: how apparent unity at one moment can turn into division at another. Continue reading